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Chriss Scherer Scherer has been the editor of Radio magazine since 1997. His experience in radio includes work as chief engineer at stations in Cleveland (WMMS-FM, WHK-AM, WZJM-FM, WJMO-AM...more

What you say and how you say it

I recently had a conversation with another broadcast engineer that reminded me that how you say something is just as important as what you say. As engineers, we tend to interface with equipment just fine. Sometimes our people interface isn’t always the best.

The other engineer was telling me about some work he was being asked to do. The tasks in the assignment were clear, but there were some contingencies involved. Mainly, if the initial steps of the project were done within a certain time frame, the later steps would be easier to accomplish and more likely to be accomplished successfully. Sounds simple enough, right?

This engineer explained the time sensitivity to the person assigning the work. The engineer outlined the cause and effect of the tasks and the timeline. He explained that as delays from management were introduced it would make the final result less likely to be successful. Again, sounds simple.

The problem is that engineer didn’t explain all this with an approach that built on a teamwork relationship between himself and the managers. He instead took a logical approach and presented it as if this then that scenarios, but he put a condition on the project by saying that if the management won’t agree to the strict timeline for the later tasks, he won’t waste his time on the initial tasks. Basically, he told them it’s his way or no way.

There are certainly times to take such a hard approach. Contract engineers know that some clients have to be handled in absolutes. In this case, the engineer was not to that point. By forcing the management to do it on his terms, he effectively told them he wasn’t going to take on the project.

He got his way on the project. He didn’t have to do it. But I know the relationship between the engineer and the management has been damaged.

The better way to handle the situation would be to explain the cause and effect of not staying on the timeline, and getting management to buy in on the idea. This would also involved giving the management specific parts of the project, again stressing that they affect the outcome.

I see this hardball approach too often at stations. Sometimes it’s part of the us/them mentality that engineers have toward management. Sometimes it’s just the analytical and logical engineering mind putting things into specific and concrete terms.

We’re all salesmen in our jobs. Some people sell tangible goods. Some sell intangible goods (like radio air time). Some sell ideas. Sell your idea. Make your client (the management) your partner in your work.

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